Pompey Academy continued their run of fine form with a 3-1 Youth Alliance League victory at Cheltenham.
They had to wait until midway through the second half to break the deadlock, though, with Adam Payce racing into the box to convert Koby Mottoh’s delivery.
But the lead was soon doubled, as substitute Sam Folarin followed up find the net after Mitch Aston’s shot had been parried away.
A cross from Aston was then handled in the box, with Payce stepping up to score from the spot and make sure of all three points.
The Robins won a penalty of their own in stoppage-time that was converted by Fin Jenner, but it proved no more than a consolation.
Lead professional development phase coach Zesh Rehman said: “We had a very early start, although that was no excuse for a poor first half performance.
“We didn’t arrive in the box with enough numbers and were lucky not to be two goals down, with two outstanding saves from Malachi Osei-Owusu.
“I liked the noise and atmosphere at half-time, though – it felt like a dressing room that knew our usual high standards had not been met.
“Our kit was far too clean for my liking and not enough players had got into the heat of the battle, so we emphasised the importance of faster recovery runs, winning second balls and defending the channel.
“Credit to the players for adapting to a new system. They have shown they are able to play as a back three or four, while in midfield we can have the triangle pointing up or down.
“In attack, the learning has been using two strikers close together or one up and the other linking with the midfielders.
“But, at the end of the day, it’s not about the system – rather the buy in from our players. The boys have shown a willingness to embrace the subtle changes.
“The three units were much more connected when the substitutes came on and our aggressive pressing nature was back.
“We managed to stop the game in our opponents’ half more, resulting in us having sustained pressure and eventually scoring three goals.
“After discussions with Sam Hudson, we tweaked our build-up by encouraging both full-backs to join the attack, leaving the two holding midfielders to offer balance behind the ball.
"We have built up momentum with six straight wins and keep emphasising our policy of no selfishness and no heroes."
“Harvey Laidlaw and Brian Quarm offer a lot going forward, so we want to be able to play to their strengths when in a back four.
“Meanwhile, the partnership of Spencer Spurway and Josh Dockerill was solid. They both dominated their duels, were vocal throughout and constantly drive standards, from the warm-up to the final whistle.
“The first goal game from Spencer’s diagonal ball into Sam, who used his frame to protect it under heavy pressure.
“He then found Koby, who crossed for Adam and he timed his run perfectly, arriving to finish with a side-footed finish across the keeper. It’s important for our midfielders to learn to play in pockets and meet crosses.
“The second sums up our attacking style – we played forward with purpose, made the passer’s mind up with three runs stretching behind and ended up scoring with six in the box, including both full-backs.
“Mitch pounced on the second ball on the edge of the box and unleashed a shot their keeper fumbled, with Sam alert enough to get back onside quickly and punish the mistake from six yards.
“Then, after keeping the play alive from a corner on the second phase, Mitch’s cross was handled in the box and Adam scored from the spot.
“It was a low finish to the keeper’s right, although we were unlucky with a decision from the referee at the end, which led to Cheltenham’s consolation.
“We have built up momentum with six straight wins and keep emphasising our policy of no selfishness and no heroes. We remain united as a group and support whoever has the shirt.
“After the next league game, we have our FA Youth Cup tie and Youth Alliance Cup quarter-final to look forward to.
“So we need everyone to be the best version of themselves and be ready to play their part when called upon.
“Max Hurst has not been starting as much recently, but put in a real shift for the team, clocking up more than 11km.
“That kind of attitude is infectious, while Jack Fox travelled with the team as an extra man and was exemplary in every aspect, showing great maturity to support the team.
“Someone else will have that role next week, which will be decided by training standards, both technically and physically.
“Meanwhile, Mitch, Dan Murray and Kevin Bosaka came on and helped us remain solid, which shows the strength of our squad. Every player is important and our outstanding quality is togetherness.”
Pompey: Osei-Owusu; Quarm (Bosaka 80), Dockerill, Spurway, Laidlaw; Simpson (Murray 72), Hurst; Kamavuako (Folarin 65); Payce, Mottoh; Howell (Aston 31)